What do fire hoses, pistols and first-aid kits have in common. They are the tools that may help a new breed of Special Weapons and Tactics, or SWAT, members save lives in Hialeah.
For the first time, the city's fire department teamed up with its police department in an effort to create SWAT medics, a group of medically trained firefighters that can provide immediate attention to wounded victims in emergency situations.
The SWAT medics team comprises eight firefighters who are state certified paramedics.
Thomas Felipe, Jon Kenyon, Edward Prat, Jeffrey Sparks, Julio Nunex and Cesar Espinosa were among the SWAT medic graduates at Hialeah City Hall, 501 Palm Ave., on Friday.
In a state of emergency, these men will accompany the police department's SWAT team and help with hostage operations and shootings, assisting the wounded before anyone else is allowed in.
"We don't want to be in a position where we cannot help a resident," Hialeah Mayor Julio Robaina said after the graduation ceremony.
A seven-year firefighter with Hialeah, Osniedys Castillo was one of the eight men who made it through the intensive training.
"We were exposed to three weeks of so many things: shooting, running, medical exams," Castillo said. "It's great to be the first ones; not many firefighters are also SWAT team members."
The idea was presented last year by Ubaldo Deltoro, a Hialeah police officer who recently died of cancer. The SWAT medic may be allowed into situations before police give the all-clear.
"With this type of training, we can get medical help to victims in public places such as in a mall or a school," SWAT Commander Humberto Valdes said.
Valdes, who has been with the Hialeah police department for 22 years, 20 of them with the SWAT team, says the program is necessary in order to save lives.
"If you treat a victim in the golden hour, meaning if you get to them in the first hour of an injury, there are more chances they will survive," Valdes said.
The training lasted three weeks, with 12-hour days running from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m.
"The training was grueling," said Lazaro Guerra, another graduating member of the SWAT medic team. "We learned so much already, and, even though there's always more to be learned, the training was comprehensive."
The men were tested for their emotional ability, exposed to high amounts of stress and asked to run six miles a day.
Hialeah is one of the few departments doing SWAT training around the nation and the second in South Florida with medics; Miami also has a team.
Hubert Ruiz, lead training instructor for the SWAT school, is proud the program was finally completed for Hialeah.
"Our SWAT team has been around for 20-some-odd years, and now we are adding to it something that makes a lot of sense."
Written by The Miami Herald
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